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Let’s Play: D&D in US Prisons


I was asked by documentary filmmaker and producer Elisabeth de Kleer if I would be willing to help create a Kickstarter video for her upcoming documentary film on inmates who play Dungeon and Dragons in the American prison system. Being a bit of a D&D nerd myself, this was an easy call. The Let’s Play: Dungeons & Dragons Behind Bars project went live today.

Her documentary will tell the story of how inmates and ex-cons are using role playing games to survive inside prison and how these games are used as tools to prepare for life on the outside. In the US, where the notion of rehabilitation is a joke, role playing games offer a very real way for inmates to find focus, meaning and community in their lives which goes a long way to reducing recidivism. Breaking the cycle of reoffending is a goal that benefits everyone. If you feel the same, please consider backing this worthwhile project.

The DEFCON Documentary

DEFCON: The Documentary, the film I helped shoot last year for intrepid nerd documentarian Jason Scott, is complete and ready for viewing. This doc chronicles the history of the world’s largest computer hacking conference, on its 20th anniversary as it took place in Las Vegas.  There is so much packed into this.  Even if you’ve never been to or heard of DEFCON, you’ll find this film to be quite accessible. Hundreds of hours of footage went into the making of this as did thousands of hours of Jason’s time directing and editing the thing. I’m quite proud of the results and am honored to have taken part in its creation.

You can watch the whole thing below, or grab the legal 720p torrent and download it.  It’s also on YouTube.  You can also find it on the Internet Archive, complete with subtitles.

DEFCON: The Documentary from Jason Scott on Vimeo.

Viral Videos in the Redwoods

Last weekend, I hosted a viral video night with meme master Jamie Wilkinson at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur. I’ve long wanted to do an event at this magical, redwood enclosed, roadside oasis. The Library is a destination I’ve often visited since moving to the west coast 13 years ago. In recent years, their small outdoor stage has been host to some high profile performers, including Neil Young, Animal Collective, The xx, Laurie Anderson, Henry Rollins & Jello Biafra to name a few. I felt it quite an honor when Magnus Toren, long time friend and director of the Library, invited me to put together an “Internet video night.”

Over the course of 3 hours, Jamie and I took the audience on a show and tell tour of some popular Internet videos that have become memes. I presented first and focused on 4 videos which each have spawned a whole slew of remixes, mashups, animations, reinterpretations and songs. Jamie then presented a series of videos of kids doing embarrassing things on the Internet followed by what happens when kids feed the trolls. The evening was well received and I know we’ll do more of these in the future. Here’s the 4 original videos I focused on with links to each of the remix/mashup/song videos that I followed with.

Double Rainbow Guy

01 Oh My God! song
02 Auto-Tune song
03 2001: A Space Odyssey remix
04 Ft. Boyard remix
05 Taco Bell/KFC inspired
06 Hungry Bear’s Cagefight
07 Hungry Bear’s Wild Turkeys

Insane Clown Posse – Miracles

01 Saturday Night Live parody
02 Juggalo News
03 Magnetism Explained
04 Glad Plugin mashup
05 Fuckin’ magnets, fuckin’ rainbows

Epic Beard Man

01 Critical commentary
02 Animated reinterpretation
03 Epic Beard Man in Mortal Kombat
04 Epic Beard Man’s Punchout for Nintendo
05 Epic Beard Man Tased at A’s Game

Amber Lamps

01 Hey There, Amber Lamps
02 Amber Lamps Song Tribute
03 Animated, Techno Amber Lamps
04 Black Betty, Amber Lamps

Ustream update – 2 months in

In the 2 months that I’ve been working at Ustream, a lot has happened and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some exotic locations. Part of what I do is to support Ustream’s paying customers and partners with production resources for their live broadcasts. Typically, this is someone or someones who can setup and operate cameras, switchers, audio gear and streaming computers. Some times, this is me, such as with the Le Web conference in Paris this past December.

Ustream command central

Often times, and will be more so, it’s finding reliable and available people around the world to work with to do this. We are doing more complex multi-camera switched broadcast productions, which sometimes involves working with local production companies in the cities we find ourselves in. I’m building out a global network of trusted streaming resources we can hire when events come up. People resources and equipment resources. If this something you do, you should get in touch with me.

Another thing we’re doing is streaming events with a completely portable, self contained “satellite truck in a box.” This is essentially a completely mobile backpack PC with 6 cell phone modems load balanced across 3 mobile network carriers and chock full of batteries. It can push a 1Mb out, making it ideal for roaming events or places without an Internet connection. I went to Vegas recently with one of these to broadcast a nightclub opening with Diddy. Will.i.am also uses one that he likes to use to crash LA parties with sometimes, as does Ashton Kutcher.

West coast is the best

Another fun highlight, Snoop Dogg stopped in to our recent company meeting to tell us what he likes about Ustream (direct interaction with fans) and what he wants out of it (more kinds of interactivity with fans). Snoop’s got his Wake n Bake show on Ustream where he smokes endless blunts while DJing music and interacting with his fans. Snoop told us he got into Ustream by learning from Soulja Boy, watching how he built his success using the Internet.

He also had our mobile Broadcaster app installed on his Android phone, which he was very stoked about. Snoop loves the tech, understands how it helps him do what he does better while making him more accessible to his fans. Very genuine player, in it for the love all the way.

Now, I’m in Tokyo. I’m streaming some events, one being a concert by the Japanese goth anime pop duo sensation Hangry & Angry.

Oh, also the Shiba Inu puppies are back!

A new frontier: Ustream

Ustream

Big changes in the eddie.com world. After freelancing as a videographer, producer & consultant for the last few years, I’ve settled down as the Head of Production Services for a little outfit called Ustream. Maybe you’ve heard of them. They’re one of the big players in the live video streaming space (what was once called webcasting back in 1.0 days). Rappers love ’em. So do tech conferences. I just finished up streaming the LeWeb conference in Paris, my first trip as an employee. I’ve worked with Ustream a bunch over the past year in a consulting capacity, which has been a lot of fun.

Ustream command central

So what does a Head of Production Services do? I’m still trying to figure that out. What I do know is that it’ll involve servicing the many requests we get for help from our customers. Ustream is super easy to use and free for anyone, though many people need or want a bit of extra help. Production Services will be that. You’ll be able to hire Ustream “certified” professionals to come out and make sure your event goes off without a hitch. You’ll hear more about that over the coming months as we get things figured out.

For me, this seems like a natural progression of things I’ve been doing over the past 10 years. Back in the early 2000’s, I worked for a small startup called Fast Forward Networks that had created an innovative platform for scaling live broadcasts across the Internet. Think multicast at the application layer. It worked pretty well and we had some early successes selling to CDNs, broadcasting the Super Bowl and a Madonna concert. That startup was acquired by Inktomi right before the dot-com crash. This meant a 1000+ person company was soon reduced to less than 100 and firesaled off to Yahoo! in 2003.

On the cusp of 2010, live Internet broadcasting is doing damn fine. It’s become disruptive and the major old-school TV broadcasters have a lot to fear. Some of the fundamental technologies have changed, such as Flash video being the ubiquitous way of viewing Internet video. Back in 1.0 days it was all about RealNetworks, Quicktime and Windows Media. Codec and platform compatibility problems were the norm and end-user bandwidth simply wasn’t there to provide the YouTube & Hulu like experience we have today. We’ve come a long way in 10 years and I have no doubt the next 10 years will be exponentially more interesting. I predict by 2020 all TV media consumption will be Internet based, cable will be dead, DVDs will be a relic and satellite will just be another avenue for delivering Internet. From where I’m sitting, that looks pretty good.

Coworking at the Hat Factory

The guys behind the Life Hacking documentary stopped by and interviewed me about coworking at the Hat Factory. Me in my natural habitat.

Roboexotica uprising on track

It’s the day before the big opening of the main event here in Vienna, Austria, the 10th annual Roboexotica Festival for Cocktail-Robotics. Lots of preparation action going on in the Freiraum with several of Johannes’ students collaborating on a few delightfully rude drink dispensing bots. I’m happily joined here by many bot friendly pals from the States including Bre Pettis, CTP, Kal Spelletich, Al Honig and Mitch Heinrich to name just a few, all on track with their creations. Here’s some pix to whet your appetite of the madness to come.

Roboexotica setup

CTP arrives!

RoboVox assembles

A few questions for Spike Lee

I'm taller than Spike Lee

Here’s an excerpt with my sit down interview with Spike Lee yesterday. Myself and a handful of other bloggers & vloggers got 20 minutes with Spike to ask him about the influence of the Internet, social networks, mobile devices and cheap tools on film making. Oh, and also his view on UFOs!! This is part of the Nokia Productions film project.


A few questions with Spike Lee from ekai on Vimeo.

What would you ask Spike Lee?

Spike Lee Nokia film screengrab

This user submitted cell phone film project that I’ve been helping out with for Nokia and that Spike Lee is directing is set to premiere in LA next week. I’ve haven’t seen the finished piece or have any idea how long the thing is, but I’m sure with Spike’s hand, it’ll be interesting to say the least. Nokia is doing it up big time and giving myself and the four other assistant directors 30 minutes sit down time with Spike. That’s pretty damn dope and I do have some of my own questions for ol’ Spike. What I think would be more interesting though is if you give me some questions to ask. Yes YOU, unwashed Internet masses. Now’s your chance. Anything at all. Ask him about his email habits. What are the challenges working with a million random people with cell phones? Does he like pumpkin pie? Would he ever collaborate with Clint Eastwood on a movie? Is he planning on doing an epic film on Obama? Coffee or tea? Leave your question in the comments. The whole Q&A will be live streamed and archived I’m told. Will post those deets when I know ’em.

Also, congrats to five lucky people who contributed death scenes for the film. Miss Bekah Havens for her Spaghetti Western piece, Heather Schlegel for her takes Of Mice and Men and Rebel Without a Cause, Eric Liu for his stop motion Lego version of Jurassic Park, Andrew Bennett for his Quick and the Dead inspired submission and Carlton Brightly for his interpretation of the Blair Witch Project. You’ll be going to LA and chillaxing with us and Spike.

My Ybike

A few weeks ago, this solar powered, GPS-enabled, picture taking purple cruiser bike showed up at my door. It’s one of 20 bikes that Yahoo! commissioned as an experiment by the fine folks at Uncommon Projects and are being sprinkled around the world. There are three here in San Francisco and I have one of them. Some others are in New York, Vermont, Sydney Australia, Copenhagen Denmark and Singapore. You can see the whole list on Yahoo’s Start Wearing Purple site.

The bike is an 8-speed Electra Townie equipped with a Nokia N95 cellphone that takes a photo every minute while the bike is moving. It geotags the photo and uploads to a dedicated Flickr account immediately over the cell network. The solar panels on the back sit on top of a control panel connected to a long life battery that charges while out and about in the sun. I could ride the bike across the country nonstop, though I admit I haven’t tried that yet. If for some reason the bike runs out of juice, there’s an AC plug in the control panel that will charge the whole thing up overnight.

My new Yahoo! purple GPS Flickr photo bike

It comes with the nicely designed cat friendly owner’s manual.

ETFM

If you dig into Start Wearing Purple, you can follow my bike on these sweet maps that plot the photos posted to Flickr. Unfortunately, the site is all in Flash and I can’t link directly to maps section. You can also see maps directly through the bike’s Flickr account.

My ybike on the Embarcadero

Here’s a set of photos and slideshow my bike took while riding on Chris Carlsson’s SF Bicycle History Tour which I highly recommend!

Screeenshot of SF Bicycle History Tour

So the verdict? It’s fun to ride, is a great conversation piece and proves that you can voluntarily surveil yourself very easily. The plus side of that is if the bike is stolen I can easily track it down. So far, I haven’t had to do that. The battery does last a long time (several days) so charging is an afterthought. The initial rev of the custom software running on the N95 was a little buggy and the phone would just stop taking photos sometimes as well as not geotag some photos. I had to open up the camera housing and force a reboot to get it going again until Tarikh from Uncommon Projects stopped by and upgraded it. It’s been smooth sailing ever since.

UPDATE: The Associated Press did a little video news segment on the ybike featuring Amit Gupta, who also has one of the three bikes in SF. Note the Unamerican sticker on the side of his solar panel box, a little gift from me. 🙂

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